Addressing Disclosure Risk of Contextualized Microdata in Survey Design

This project seeks to increase the availability of detailed research data about a person’s neighborhood and individual characteristics, behaviors, and health outcomes, information which is crucial for research on critical national issues, such as health disparities. However, a delicate balance must be struck between providing easy access to these data and protecting the anonymity of study participants. Responding to the rising demand for Contextualized Microdata, large national Surveys typically collect meticulous information about their subjects’ personal and geographic attributes. When data are prepared for public-use files, however, much of this important detail is either suppressed or coarsened to protect the anonymity of respondents. These limitations reduce opportunities for important scientific research and impose costly burdens on producers and distributors who must implement restrictive data use agreements. Little is known about how the ability to protect a respondent’s identity (i.e., Disclosure Risk) is affected by releasing Microdata files that contain the contextual attributes of counties, tracts, blockgroups, and 1/2-mile geographic areas surrounding each subject. Hence this project seeks to incorporate Disclosure Risk into the conceptual and empirical frameworks used in the evaluation of Survey Designs.